Demand an independent pay transparency agency to close the gender pay gap

The Equal Pay Act makes it unlawful to refuse to offer the same pay, terms of employment, training, promotion based on the sex of a person, but the inability to compare pay between two people of different sex, for work of equal value is a major obstacle to gender equality.

New Zealanders want to live in an open, honest and fair society. Our values and the way that we live tends to embody that. If we don’t have transparency in the workplace then we are failing to live up to the values that we claim to live by.

To ensure women are not being discriminated against when it comes to their salary, wages and progression the Human Rights Commission is calling on the Government to include pay transparency in legislation.

Pay secrecy has allowed women to be underpaid for 45 years, since the Equal Pay Act was made law in 1972. It reinforces racial biases and often hides structural inequalities. If wages and salaries are made transparent, it simply becomes harder to hide.

Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo in 'It's time to end the secrecy over unequal pay' via The Dominion Post, 8 March 2019

Pay secrecy has allowed women to be underpaid for 45 years after the Equal Pay became law in 1972. It reinforces racial biases and often hides structural inequalities. If wages and salaries are transparent, then it becomes harder to hide.

The Commission is calling on the Government to establish an independent body to ensure transparency in reporting about pay equity. This body will receive transparency reports and provide information and resource services to employees for potential pay equity issues.

We are far behind other developed countries. Australian companies have been reporting this information annually to the Workplace Gender equality Agency since 2012. The United Kingdom brought legislation requiring companies to report their gender pay gap in 2018. They are now debating whether to require companies to also report on their ethnic pay gap.

In 2018, Iceland enacted a law that required both public and private organisations with more than 25 employees to are audited annually and prove that they provide equal pay to men and women. Iceland’s gender pay gap was between 14%-22% in 2015. With this new law, their government hopes to close the gap by 2022.

Making pay transparent means employees in companies with more than 100 people know what their colleagues and those in similar occupations are being paid. The lack of data to compare salaries and wages makes it difficult to bring an equal pay claim against an employer because employees don’t have access to this information.

Ending the gender pay gap is particularly important for closing the economic gap for women at the bottom of the ladder, including Māori, Pacific, disabled, and ethnic minority women.

New Zealand has a duty under international and domestic human rights law to ensure equal pay for work of equal value. Women must not be left to bargain without the tools they need. What they need is data about the gender pay gap in their workplace to lodge claims. That's why we need an independent pay transparency agency.

You can find out more information about pay transparency and the campaign here.